Horror of Fang Rock

The UK's first release of 2005 is 'Horror of Fang Rock', an exciting adventure set on an isolated lighthouse at the beginning of the twentieth century. The story was written by veteran writer and script-editor Terrance Dicks and was the first story to be produced by Graham Williams, although it owes more to his predecessor's work than to his own camper style...

'Horror of Fang Rock' is somewhat of an oddity in the history of Doctor Who productions, in that it was recorded at the BBC's Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, rather than in London. This was purely due to a lack of London facilities on the required dates, but caused some concern at the time because of the complex nature of some of the video effects work required. In the event, Pebble Mill pulled out all the stops to accommodate the production, even installing new gallery equipment specially for the show - and director Paddy Russell was extremely pleased at how smoothly it all went.

Unusually, there is no location work in the story - it was all either shot on video in the studio, or on 16mm film on a set at Ealing Studios. The quad videotape masters were transferred to D3 digital videotape as part of the BBC's 2" videotape archiving project in the mid-nineties, and it is these D3 copies that we used as a basis for the restoration work. This followed our traditional, well-established route:- The D3's were transferred to Digital Betacam from the Research Department Transform PAL decoder for optimum picture quality, then noise-reduced, graded and edited to remove any bad frames etc. Film sequences were dubbed off to a separate compilation tape and cleaned up on Scratchbox, then dropped back into the episodes. Videotape dropouts were fixed using a framestore in the grading suite's vision mixer to key in undamaged video to cover the disturbance. The opening title captions were videograbbed, cleaned up in Photoshop, then re-keyed over new high-quality transfers of the title backgrounds.

In the past, we would dub the soundtracks off to DAT and timecoded VHS to allow Mark Ayres to work on the soundtrack restoration, but following our successful use of it on 'Lost in Time', we now dub the episodes to DVCam videotape and Mark works from that source. The technical specification of the DVCam audio matches that of DAT, but there is the added advantage of having the pictures on the same tape and DVCam seems to interchange between various machines better than DAT. Mark delivered back on DVCam also, which meant that we could be doubly sure that we were laying back the audio onto the Digibeta masters in the correct sync, as we could see pictures from both tapes at the same time.

No particular problems were found, although the film sequences were of poor quality generally. At a couple of points the telecine used back in 1976 has a problem with line-noise across the picture and unfortunately  there is very little that we could do to improve this. It's surprising that the director allowed this problem to go uncorrected at the time, but the production file for the story does indicate that they had terrible problems with the film sequences all the way through production, so perhaps it was the best they could get at the time and of course the actual film no longer exists.

The main featurette on this release is a 36-minute feature, 'Terrance Dicks - Fact & Fiction', produced and directed by Keith Barnfather, with whom many people will be familiar  through his long-running 'Myth Makers' series. The featurette is a retrospective of Terrance Dicks' work as writer, script-editor and novelist, and features interviews with the man himself, as well as Barry Letts, Christopher Barry, Louis Marks, Eric Saward, Paul Cornell, Peter Darvill-Evans and Brenda Gardner.

Paul Vanezis has produced 'Paddy Russell - A Life in Television', a 14-minute featurette based around an interview with Paddy Russell, looking back over her career on the show and the four stories she directed.

'The Antique Doctor Who Show' is a 5-minute item originally screened before the second episode of 'Planet of the Daleks' during the 30th Anniversary celebrations in 1993. It borrows the format of the popular 'Antiques Roadshow' programme, but concentrates on Doctor Who memorabilia and merchandise.

The commentary features actors Louise Jameson (Leela) and John Abbot (Vince), with Terrance Dicks. As usual there will be a picture gallery and production subtitle notes commentary.


Copyright Steve Roberts, 15 November 2004. No reproduction allowed without written permission.